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Embracing Diversity: A Student's Experience at BYU–Hawaii

Pao-Hung Lee, a senior from Taipei, Taiwan, knew that he would need to obtain higher education to advance in his career. He didn't expect to gain a deeper appreciation for cultures and people from all over the world while doing it.

Portrait of Pao-Hung Lee and his wife standing together at Brigham Young University–Hawaii.
Photo by Douglas Ferriera

An Opportunity for Growth

Lee grew up surrounded by major tech companies in Taipei. Upon returning home from serving a full-time mission in Jacksonville, Florida, he started working for Philips Electronics. However, he quickly realized that if he wanted to grow within the company and expand his work opportunities, a degree in information technology would be required.

When deciding which university to apply to, Lee knew he wanted to attend a CES institution for academic and spiritual development. Looking at his choices, he felt prompted to apply to BYU–Hawaii when he saw that the university catered to students from Oceania and the Asia Rim. "I still remember the feeling of seeing all the flags around the flag circle when I first pulled up on campus," shared Lee. "I felt the spirit of diversity, that it was a big focus, and I felt comfortable being here."

Despite undergoing some major cultural adjustments, Lee still felt excited when seeing and meeting people from all over the world. Lee explains, "In Taiwan, there's not a lot of foreigners. Coming here was the first time I'd met and interacted with people from the Pacific Islands. It was awesome." These diverse interactions have impacted and blessed Lee's life in different ways. "At BYUH, I can work with people from different cultures and backgrounds, whether at work or in the classroom. I can help them, and they help me. I really like this environment of helping one another," shared Lee.

Portrait of Pao-Hung Lee.
Photo by Douglas Ferreira

Words of Advice

Throughout his years at BYUH, Lee always coached himself with the motto, "Practice makes perfect," whenever learning or tackling a new obstacle in life. Whether this was for learning English or understanding complex concepts in class, he knew that the more he worked at it and practiced, the better he would get.

Additionally, Lee would always start a new year with a resolution. From 2021 to 2024, he told himself to focus on schoolwork and excel in his studies. Lee shares, "Every winter semester, I would tell myself to do well for the year and get good grades for every class. My time at BYUH is so precious; I need to work hard."

Another takeaway he's had from his time on the island would be learning time management skills. He attributes some of his success with this skill to being on a relatively small campus, saying, "BYUH is small in size, and most people live on campus. This is a blessing because it makes getting to class and work easy. You can get anywhere by walking. So it was important for me to always show up on time for class and important meetings."

Lee also sees the small campus size as a great way to get to know people. He encourages other students, current and prospective, to meet as many as they can while here. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn and explore different cultures. Lee shares, "Expand your network; you never know how these relationships will bless your life."

Portrait of Pao-Hung Lee and his wife, Cassie.
Photo by Bilguun Enkhbaatar

Appreciation for Mentors

Lee's success at BYU–Hawaii can also be attributed to the help and wisdom obtained from professors and mentors. He explains, "I appreciate my dean, Professor Aaron Curtis, for all he's done for me. He has helped me and I see how he helps other CIS students excel."

He also thanked Professor Geoffrey Draper, sharing, "Every time I go to his office, he makes time to help me and answers my questions one by one. Even though my English isn't the best, he's patient with me and listens to my concerns.

Onto the Next Chapter

Although Lee and his wife, Cassie, will miss the BYUH campus and community, they're excited as they look to the future. Lee shares that the company Philips has already offered him a full-time position when he returns to Taiwan. They plan to move back in June after their last semester. His final remarks being, "BYUH is awesome!"